Books by James H Duncan
Nights Without Rain
Like scenes witnessed through passing windows at night, these fifty stories reveal love and lives realized and destroyed, the mundane terrors and desires of modern life, loneliness, heartache, and hard-won redemption. Through sprawling cities to small desert towns, the players in each tale are you and I, your friend, your enemy, all of us just actors in minuscule films any stranger passing by may see and experience, and perhaps remember for the rest of their lives. From the author of What Lies In Wait and The Cards We Keep, these flashes of fiction explore the strange and desolate landscape of humanity's desire for comfort, for communion, or for something just a little more.
“In Nights Without Rain, James gives the reader glimpses of humanity —from ‘screaming, haranguing Americana’ to ‘a derelict honeymoon of stupid love’—without frills, but with genuine understanding. Nothing sentimental, just the messy, sublime, ridiculous state of being alive.” — Kate Garrett, editor of Three Drops Press
“Nights Without Rain is a collection that wanders. It peeks into alleys, diners, and bedrooms, revealing what most of us never share. These stories build on each other without ever touching, each nodding at what’s fostered or broken in small moments. James Duncan shows us what uncertainty looks like when we’re all just waiting for rain.” — Rachel Nix, editor of Cahoodaloodaling
“Reminiscent of Hollywood’s era of classic films, Nights Without Rain hops into the lives of different characters like jumping trains, each searching through giant cities and small towns, capturing snapshots of small lives and inevitable consequences. Duncan is a master of turning words into imagery and directing stories about life and all the “what ifs.” The audience can’t help but sit back and read each scene through to the very end.” — Hillary Leftwich, editor of Heavy Feather Review
The Girl Who Loved Halloween
A short story single full of nostalgia, a few treats, and one grim trick. In this tale, it’s finally Halloween weekend. Hannah has waited all year for the parties, the pumpkin picking, the costumes, the decorations, the scary stories, and especially the candy. She thrives on the spooky fun so much that her imagination begins to cross boundaries, and dancing skeletons and flying witches evolve from playful daydreams into eerily realistic visions. And on the afternoon before Halloween, on an innocent visit to a local cemetery to make gravestone rubbings, Hannah discovers why her love for the holiday is so special, and so frightening...
We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine
From Unknown Press, this full-length collection of narrative poetry explores the childhood memories and nostalgic daydreams of a grade-school bookworm now grown up to face cancer, debt, solitude, and the fear that all the joys and hopes of a bygone youth are slipping out of reach. Named the "Best Book of 2017" by literary website Drunk Monkeys, this collection is available at Amazon and by special order through your local bookseller.
"In 2017, no book moved us, challenged us, and inspired us like James Duncan’s poetry collection We Are All Terminal But This Exit is Mine. It’s a powerful, transformative, and funny work - and our choice for Best Book of 2017." – Drunk Monkeys editorial staff
"A poignantly beautiful and bittersweet cycle of poems—vivid reflections of a grown man coming to terms with the hopes, dreams and experiences of childhood, his present circumstances and possible future outcomes. The poems are evocative meditations on the transitory and ephemeral nature of life and our inevitable mortality. Though often tinged with sadness, they serve as incantations that are, at their core, hopeful, celebratory and life affirming." – Michael Gillan Maxwell, author of The Part Time Shaman Handbook: An Introduction For Beginners
"James H Duncan's We Are All Terminal But this Exit Is Mine may sound like a dour collection of verse of a young man on his way to a desperate end, but in fact, nothing is further from the truth. Duncan takes his experiences from brutal reminders of mortality and hems them up with his succinct, deceptively-simple (quite complex) view of life that leaves the reader glad they breathe vibrant air, feel radiant sun, and never take life for granted." – Clifford Brooks, Pulitzer nominee and author of The Draw of Broken Eyes and Whirling Metaphysics
"An unflinching collection that spins a web of reminiscence sweet with heartache and dusted with longing for a youth now passed. With a narrative as eternal as spring, populated by gravel lots and corn fields, Duncan crafts a time and place we all remember, one of boyhood and recklessness, of late night stars and clenched fists, where death and love look so much alike—a bittersweet sunset calling to end a summer we swore had just begun." – Ally Malinenko, author of The Wanting Bone and This Is Sarah
"In his new collection, Duncan comes full circle as a poet. Whether he's being the heathen of light, the heathen of sin, the heathen of love, or the heathen of life's simple miracles—Duncan lays a firm foundation to dribble his heart-and-bones poetry on the guts of your soul. This is a compelling collection of poems that'll be a welcome addition to any bookshelf." – Frank Reardon, author of Blood Music, Nirvana Haymaker, and The Broken Halo Blues
Note from the author: I'd like to thank Bud Smith and Devin Kelly at Unknown Press for their incredible editorial guidance and creative insight, and Alicia Frehulfer for allowing me to use her gorgeous painting for the cover.
Dead City Jazz
This poetry collection weaves in and out of San Antonio nights, each soaked with neon lights, hard liquor, and the pained, lost, hopeful, suicidal, and redemptive population of dreamers stalking the streets. The book is part of the Punk Chapbook Series by Epic Rites Press.
"A lively sampling of work. Duncan explores the geography of human emotion, love, loneliness, desperation, fear and indifference using robust imagery while simultaneously intertwining narratives. Throughout these poems, [he] shows how you can travel anywhere, but you will always find similar social landscapes." - Trailer Park Quarterly [Full Review]
What Lies In Wait
In the tradition of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, these stories explore the unexpected and strange, the whimsical and nostalgic, the eerie and gruesome, sixteen tales of lives forever changed by simple choices and small mistakes, ordinary people unaware they are crossing the point of no return, leaving the common world for a realm of the unknown. From eerie ghost stories to lighthearted runaway tales, these stories explore the entire spectrum of what happens when we confront ... what lies in wait.
“I just can’t recommend strongly enough James H Duncan’s new collection of stories, each infused with a human quality that makes even those that deal in the fantastic resonate with humor, pathos, and emotional maturity.” — Philip Athans, bestselling author of Annihilation
"Considering the title ... someone unfamiliar with Duncan might expect this to be a collection of horror stories. Yet Duncan’s work resists genre, as his words pass through the conventions of apocalypse, noir, whimsy, zombie alternate history, and the uncanny. ... Duncan implements his mysteries with rich description and a marvelous knack for keeping the reader focused on both the moment and the foreboding possibilities of what comes next." - David S. Atkinson, author of Bones Buried in the Dirt (See David's full review at Buffalo Almanack.)
A special thank you goes out to Alexandra Soman for the cover image “but your ghost I will gladly bear.” Visit her work at www.psycheanamnesis.deviantart.com.
For copies, visit Amazon.com!
Berlin is now available from Maverick Duck Press! From New York to Berlin and back, these poems chronicle the romance, intrigue, sadness, humor, and brooding wintertime nostalgia of the people and places of Berlin—a city like no other. Walk along the Spree as snow falls on cobbled streets, drift from lamppost to lamppost at night as WWII-era ghosts fly overhead, and stroll beneath the lights of the Ku'damm with actresses, bus drivers, and policemen as the glowing cafes call out with promises of coffee and warmth. This is Berlin. A special thanks goes to Ryan W. Bradley for designing the cover.
The Cards We Keep
From crooked detectives to boxcar hobos; from desperate bounty hunters to disgraced celebrities; from small-town doldrums to haunted marriages—these ten stories explore the strange and uncertain, the deadly and the lonesome, looking deep into the aching reflections of the choices we’ve made, the cages we’ve created, the secrets we’ve buried, and at the ace cards we’ve tucked away into our sleeves during the long and dangerous card game of life...waiting for that moment when we’ll need them the most.
(A special thank you goes to Emmanuel Jose, the artist who created the playing card image I used for the cover.)
"The writing calls back to dime store detective novels (in the best ways), and there’s a tone of the dusty 1940s time period feel to most of this — all the girls are gals or dames. The men long for steaks and cold beers." — Bud Smith, author of Tollbooth
"The stories in The Cards We Keep all ruminate with dark undertones, yet there is also a charming and uniquely hopeful aspect to them as well. Many of the stories have a Noir-esque feel to them, with hitmen, murder, and gore, but these pieces are written in a fresh and inspiring way, with the reader connecting with and understanding the mind of the troubled characters. This collection is a must buy for short fiction lovers." — April Michelle Bratten, editor of Up The Staircase Quarterly
For copies, visit Amazon.com!
Lantern Lit, Vol. 1 (The Darkest Bomb)
This split-author poetry chapbook features James H Duncan, John Dorsey, and Mat Gould. The Darkest Bomb, Duncan's mini-chap, examines the ending that waits for us all and the millions of paths we take to reach that final explosion of nothingness, the darkest bomb. You can find a sample poem by clicking HERE.
"There's a tightness here reminiscent of Carver ... that your average Bukowski imitator just never — or so rarely that it's pretty much the same thing — ever pulls off." - The Bicycle Review
"These are urgent poems, which live resolutely in the modern landscape. There’s a quality of resilience about them, of vivacity in spite of urban decay." - The Lit Pub
Dealing With the Devil in the Middle of the Road: New & Selected Poems
This full-length collection combines new poems with the best of Duncan’s work published between 2005 and 2012—a span in which his poetry appeared in more than sixty print and online journals and in five small-press chapbooks.
“His poems aren't just about the night flow of the world of jazz and highways, but about the search for love and comfort we all have in common. They remind us to hope that maybe there's a soft place for us to land after all.” - Dena Rash Guzman, author of Life Cycle
"From the opening lines ... you find yourself drawn into a world of fading dreams, tired souls, ambitious strippers, whiskey glasses, hustlers, juke boxes and travelers. ... He’s the quiet guy at the bar, nursing his last drink and taking it all in. Later on, when you’ve forgotten it all, he remembers. He knows the names of the hookers you visited, he knows where you dropped your last twenty, he saw how you got those grazes on your forehead, the bruises on your knees, he was there at opening time for the heart starter and he was on the bus when you fled town. His isn’t the voice of reason, it’s the voice of being, of surviving." - Kami, poet and proprietor of Jazz From Hell Productions
"James Duncan’s Dealing With the Devil in the Middle of the Road weaves the articulate and eloquent grace of a storywriter with that of a poet. In ghostly and sensual atmospherics, it narrates the lives of men traversing darkened streets and highways, railroad trellises, dead-end jobs, in and out of bars, and in and out of love." - Jeffrey C. Alfier, author of The Wolf Yearling; editor of the San Pedro River Review
For copies, visit Amazon.com!
The following poetry chapbooks are only available through the author or are out-of-print.
Desolation 2 a.m. (Hobo Camp Press, 2010)
Maybe a Bird Will Sing (Bird War Press, 2009)
Thrift Store Majestic (2006)
Welcome to the Night Shift (2005)